Romantic guitar
The early romantic guitar is the guitar of the Classical
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

 and Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 period of music, showing remarkable consistency in the instrument from 1790 to 1830. By this time guitars used single strings of six or more (compared to, for example, the Baroque guitar
Baroque guitar
The Baroque guitar is a guitar from the baroque era , an ancestor of the modern classical guitar. The term is also used for modern instruments made in the same style....

 with nine or ten strings paired to make five courses). The romantic guitar eventually led to a different type of guitar in Spain: the fan-braced Spanish guitars of Torres, which may be seen as the immediate precursor of the modern classical guitar
Classical guitar
The classical guitar is a 6-stringed plucked string instrument from the family of instruments called chordophones...



The first unaltered guitar strung with single strings rather than pairs of strings was a guitar built by Ferdinando Gagliano in 1774, in Naples. This guitar, displayed in the Heyer museum in Cologne before it was dispersed, showed some main differences between the baroque guitar and what would later become the classical guitar. For example, it had 5 single strings, inlaid bass frets on the neck, a long neck (11 frets where the fretboard met the body) relative to string length, a pegged, terminal bridge, and a characteristic figure-8 shaped tuning head. This “missing link” lacks only a sixth string before resembling the distinctive early romantic guitar.

The earliest extant six string guitar was built in 1779 by Gaetano Vinaccia (1759 - after 1831) in Naples, Italy. The Vinaccia family of luthiers is known for developing the mandolin
A mandolin is a musical instrument in the lute family . It descends from the mandore, a soprano member of the lute family. The mandolin soundboard comes in many shapes—but generally round or teardrop-shaped, sometimes with scrolls or other projections. A mandolin may have f-holes, or a single...

. This guitar has been examined and does not show tell-tale signs of modifications from a double-course guitar. Authenticity of guitars before the 1790s is often in question. This also corresponds to when Moretti's 6-string method appeared, in 1792.

France also began to produce six, single-stringed guitars around the same time, and some years later Spain began as well. The Italian, French, and Spanish six-string guitars all differed from the baroque guitar in more or less the same ways. Other than the differences pointed out in the first single-string guitar above, the guitar gradually had more pronounced curves and a larger body, ornamentation was somewhat restrained and was placed mostly around the edges of the body and sound hole. Decorative rose covering the sound hole was also removed to allow for more volume. Frets of the instrument were changed from tied gut to fixed strips (first ebony or ivory, then metal). And the wooden pegs were later on replaced by metal tuning machines.


The abundance of instructional books in this period reveals that there was no standard way to play the instrument. They mainly used earlier traditions; for example the right hand was supported on a table, even though the Spanish guitarist Nicario Juaralde warned against resting the little finger on the table for more right hand freedom. Mainly the thumb and first two fingers were used for plucking and in the 19th century free stroke (tirando – letting the fingertips rise after the note is played) was typically used. Because of the narrow fretboard, the left-hand thumb was used by some guitarists to play notes on the sixth string; however Sor mentions this negatively in his method
Méthode pour la Guitare
The Méthode pour la Guitare is a method for the classical guitar originally written in French by guitarist and composer Fernando Sor.The method was written with the early romantic guitar in mind The Méthode pour la Guitare is a method for the classical guitar originally written in French by...

 - Sor suggests that the left-hand thumb should rather be centered at the neck (and notes that neither bass-string fingering choices, nor holding/supporting of the guitar require the "high" thumb positioning). Romantic guitars were often held by a strap around the player’s neck, and Dionysio Aguado actually invented a “tripodion”, his own invention, for holding the instrument. Unlike most classical guitarists today, players were divided as to whether or not use fingernails. Fernando Sor, for example did not, while his compatriot, Aguado, did use them. Aguado was also the first guitarist to advocate a relaxed relationship between the player and the instrument. His method encourages the player leaning back in his chair, with two feet solidly on the ground rather than using a footstool, and the edge of the chair is used to keep the guitar from sliding down to the right, projecting the neck upward and closer to the player’s torso rather than way out to the left.

Notable Composers

  • Antoine de Lhoyer
    Antoine de Lhoyer
    Antoine de Lhoyer was a French virtuoso guitarist and an eminent early romantic composer of mainly chamber music featuring the classical guitar. He was an approximate musical contemporary of Beethoven...

  • Ferdinando Carulli
    Ferdinando Carulli
    Ferdinando Maria Meinrado Francesco Pascale Rosario Carulli was an Italian composer for classical guitar and the author of the first complete classical guitar method, which continues to be used today. He wrote a variety of works for classical guitar, including concertos and chamber works...

  • Fernando Sor
    Fernando Sor
    Josep Ferran Sorts i Muntades was a Spanish classical guitarist and composer. While he is best known for his guitar compositions, he also composed music for a wide range of genres, including opera, orchestra, string quartet, piano, voice and ballet...

  • Mauro Giuliani
    Mauro Giuliani
    Mauro Giuseppe Sergio Pantaleo Giuliani was an Italian guitarist, cellist and composer, and is considered by many to be one of the leading guitar virtuosi of the early 19th century.- Biography :...

  • Johann Kaspar Mertz
    Johann Kaspar Mertz
    Johann Kaspar Mertz was a Hungarian guitarist and composer.NOTE: THE ORIGINAL CREATOR OF THIS PAGE PLAGIARIZED THEIR MATERIAL. It has been copied and pasted from the Mel Bay website: I tried to report this problem to wikipedia, but they do not make it...

  • Giulio Regondi
    Giulio Regondi
    Giulio Regondi was an Italian classical guitarist, concertinist and composer.Regondi was a child prodigy. Fernando Sor dedicated his Souvenir d'amitié, op. 46 to Regondi in 1831, when the boy was just nine.There is a reference to his appearing in London in 1831, presented as a child prodigy of the...


Further reading

  • Heck, Thomas Fitzsimons. Mauro Giuliani : virtuoso guitarist and composer. 1995. ISBN 1882612000
  • Heck, Thomas Fitzsimons. The birth of the classic guitar and its cultivation in Vienna, reflected in the career and compositions of Mauro Giuliani (d.1829). Yale University. 1970. (Thesis)
  • Ribouillault-Bibron, Danielle. La technique de guitare en France dans la première moitié du XIXe siècle. 1980. (Thesis) 1
  • Walter, Adrian Charles. The Early Nineteenth Century Guitar: An Interpretive Context for the Contemporary Performer; with a specific focus on the compositions of Mauro Giuliani and Fernando Sor. 2008. (Thesis) 1
  • Frédéric Ben Attar, Frédéric Carpino et Ingrid Riollot: Les guitares romantiques (Musée de la Lutherie et de l'Archèterie Françaises, Mirecourt) 1
  • Sinier de Ridder. La Guitare
    • La Guitare, Tome I: Paris 1650-1950 1, 2
    • La Guitare, Tome II: Mirecourt, les provinces françaises 1, 2
  • Erik Pierre Hofmann, Pascal Mougin, Stefan Hackl. Stauffer & Co 1
  • Christof Hanusch. Masterpieces of German Instrument Making - "Weissgerber" Guitars by Richard Jacob 1, 2, 3

External links

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